“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” (Anne Frank)
When I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, I visited the Anne Frank House and walked through the Secret Annex.
I can’t begin to put into words what that experience was like. I have continued to process it, even as I have been neck-deep in what my friend Diana calls the “beautiful mundane” tasks that make up my life: laundry and Legos, tea parties and bike riding, meal planning and meal scrambling, vacuuming and PTA and swimming lessons, dance lessons, gymnastics lessons, speech therapy, and more. Flashes of the things I saw in the Secret Annex, the pictures taped to the wall next to Anne’s bed, small gestures her parents made to preserve her innocence and give her a childhood during those two years in hiding, before the brutal final trip she made to the concentration camp where she died. I was just telling my friend about how her story has taken on a whole new significance for me now that I’m a mom. Seeing it through the lens of a parent, knowing that her father was the only survivor of the eight who were in hiding together there, imagining what it was like to be trying to protect your children, yet knowing their chances of survival were slim.
My mama-heart was pierced. I sent my husband a postcard featuring a photo of Otto Frank, Anne’s dad, when he went back to the Secret Annex after… well, after everything was done. We stood in the kitchen the day that postcard arrived, trying to wrap our minds around what it is like to know that your children’s lives are in danger and knowing that you are pretty much powerless to protect them, yet you try with everything in you to do it nevertheless.
This quote from Anne Frank is on a poster in the office where two of my sons receive mental health services, so I see it regularly. I have also taped a photo of her up in my kitchen. I want her example to be before me. I want to raise children who have the strength of character that would enable them to go into hiding for two years and maintain their sense of hope. I don’t want to forget her spirit or her example of courage. And I know there are many others like her—children who are improving their world through their courage and depth of character in the face of devastating circumstances. I know there are, because I have met them. I’m a foster parent.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
How wonderful, indeed!
Every day we have the opportunity to improve the world around us, whether it’s in how we treat others, or picking up garbage from the playground or the street, offering to help a stranger in need, or—yes—opening our homes to a child or children who are in traumatic times of transition—perhaps even giving the gift of a forever family, if their original family is not an option for them anymore.
Adoption through foster care is not something special people do. Sainthood is not required in order to be an adoptive parent. If it were, there would not be a single one. We are all flawed humans who fail our children on occasion, but who want to be part of the painful yet beautiful thing that is adoption. We recognize that no child deserves to be a ward of the state, floating around between families. A willingness to be hospitable, to be inconvenienced, to be consistent and available and present is pretty much the crux of it. You don’t need a big house or a minivan. You don’t need a spouse or a house (an apartment will do!). You just need to be willing.
If it’s something you’ve considered, may I echo Anne Frank’s sentiment and nudge you with the reminder that “nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?” You’ve been thinking of it—you’ve considered it—you think maybe someday you’ll open your home to a child who is between permanent homes at the moment.
How about not waiting another single moment? How about getting that ball rolling tonight?